Four juglets with a handle in descending size order.

Research project

The Cyprus Digitisation Project

Supported by

The A. G. Leventis Foundation

Key project information

Duration

2005 − ongoing

Contact details

Email: greekandroman@britishmuseum.org

Supported by

The A. G. Leventis Foundation

How will the creation of a rich digital archive of artefacts and archival material promote knowledge of and research into Cyprus’ extraordinary ancient history?

The British Museum is home to one of the largest collections of artefacts from ancient Cyprus outside the island. It comprises over 10,000 objects from over 40 cemeteries, shrines and settlements dating from the Neolithic period to Roman times (5000 BC – AD 500). 

Since 2005, the project has digitised and shared information about this collection and its extensive archives (original letters, field notebooks and photographs) for the benefit of the general public, students and scholars.

Working closely with colleagues throughout the world – especially in Cyprus – this ongoing project documents this collection within the context of new archaeological discoveries in Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean.

About the project

The objects in the ancient Cyprus collection were mainly excavated in the 19th century (including by the British Museum itself) when archaeology was developing as a scientific discipline. The Museum collection helped lay the foundation for a modern understanding of Cyprus' ancient peoples and cultures within its Mediterranean and Near Eastern context. However, these excavations were often incomplete or poorly published, hindering modern research.

The purpose of this project is to create a detailed digital record – with images – for every item in the ancient Cyprus collection. As records are produced, they are published via Collection online and in chapters of the Ancient Cyprus in the British Museum online research catalogue. Sharing this material in digital form nurtures general knowledge of the extraordinary history of Cyprus, while aiding contemporary scholarly research.

These digital records are integrated with archival material (correspondence, journals, field reports and historic photographs) to reveal previously unpublished data about archaeological contexts and sites. 

Research into this archival material also explores the historical backdrop to the 19th-century excavations, which were rooted in the late Ottoman and British imperial periods. In doing so, the project hopes to understand more about how antiquities were excavated, collected and exported from Cyprus at this time.

Aims

This project aims to provide a comprehensive digital catalogue of the ancient Cyprus collection within the British Museum. This catalogue will: 

  • Be integrated with historical archival documents 
  • Promote knowledge of the island’s rich past
  • Facilitate contemporary research. 

The catalogue is divided into chapters focusing on an archaeological site. Some of these sites are active centres of modern research, but others have been destroyed by development or are currently inaccessible due to political conditions. Published chapters describe the finds from the rich Late Bronze Age tombs of Enkomi, Maroni, Kourion, Klavdia and Hala Sultan Tekke. Future chapters will cover the Iron Age tombs of Amathus and the Iron Age sanctuary deposits of Achna, Kition, Idalion and Salamis.

The project also aims to identify and study scattered collections of artefacts from British Museum excavations in Cyprus that are now in other UK museums. This will help to: 

  • Clarify original excavation assemblages (groups of objects)
  • Create a better understanding of Cypriot collections across the UK
  • Support the work of curators in this field. 

The project also more broadly contributes to the modern display and interpretation of the collection at the British Museum.

Conclusion

In close collaboration with colleagues in Cyprus and a global community of scholars, The Cyprus Digitisation Project is an ongoing project which facilitates long-term curatorial focus on the documentation, research and dissemination of the ancient Cyprus collection at the British Museum. It has enabled active curation of:

New data and interpretation as a result of this research will continue to complement modern scholarship and fieldwork. The work of this project will inform future display strategies at the British Museum, but also permits the creation of digital displays and catalogues that will be accessible well beyond the remit of the physical Museum.

Meet the team

Thomas Kiely headshot.

Thomas Kiely

Principal Investigator
Department of Greece and Rome
British Museum

Acknowledgements

Project supporter

Project supporter

Supported by

The A G Leventis foundation logo.

Outputs

Ancient Cyprus in the British Museum. British Museum Online Research Catalogue

ONLINE CATALOGUE

This catalogue provides an introduction to the extraordinarily rich and historically important trove of ancient material from Cyprus in the British Museum through catalogue records and essays outlining the history of the major excavation sites on the island. 

Thomas Kiely

Published in 2009 – ongoing

Cyprus Museum Enkomi digitisation project

WEBSITE

The digitisation of artefacts of the Enkomi tombs from British Museum excavations – a collaboration with the Cyprus Museum.

Meet the locals. The neglected role of local Cypriots in the discovery of the island’s material past in Late Ottoman and early British times

BOOK CHAPTER

From the book, Empire and Excavation. Critical Approaches to the History of Archaeology in British-period Cyprus, 1878−1960.

Thomas Kiely

Due to be published in 2022

Empire and Excavation. Critical Approaches to the History of Archaeology in British-period Cyprus, 1878−1960

BOOK 

A series of papers from scholars across the world, including many from Cyprus itself, exploring aspects of archaeological practice and ideology in Cyprus in British colonial times. 

Edited by Thomas Kiely, Lindy Crewe; Anna Reeve

Due to be published in 2022

Tankerville James Chamberlayne: at the crossroads from looting to learning in the revealing of Cyprus' past

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Thomas Kiely; Robert Merrillees

CCEC 51

Due to be published in 2022

A unique Late Cypriote Bronze Age jar from Demetrios Pierides’ excavations in Cyprus, formerly in the Joseph Altounian Collection, Mâcon, France, and the circulation of Cypriote antiquities in the 19th century AD

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Thomas Kiely; Robert Merrillees

CCEC 50, 459–482

Published in 2021

Robert Lang and the archaeology of Cyprus

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Thomas Kiely

CCEC 50, 483–583

Published in 2021

Cipro, fra Torino e Londra. I Cesnola e il British Museum/Cyprus, From Turin to London. The Cesnolas and the British Museum

BOOK CHAPTER

Thomas Kiely

Published in 2021

The use of an Er:YAG laser in the removal of biological growth from polychrome archaeological terracotta figurines from Cyprus

BOOK CHAPTER

Lucía Pereira-Pardo; Duygu Camurcuoglu; Miriam Orsini; Katarzyna Węgłowska; Thomas Kiely

Published in 2019

Salamis-Toumba. An Iron Age Sanctuary in Cyprus Rediscovered. Excavations of the Cyprus Exploration Fund

BOOK 

Edited by Thomas Kiely; Vassos Karageorghis 

Published in 2019

From Salamis to Bloomsbury: transporting the Bull’s Head Capital to the British Museum

BOOK CHAPTER

Thomas Kiely

Published in 2019

Auf Max Ohnefalsch-Richters Spuren im British Museum

BOOK CHAPTER

Thomas Kiely

Published in 2018

Die sozioökonomische und politische Kontext der Archäologie auf Zypern im 19. Jahrhundert

BOOK CHAPTER

Thomas Kiely; Robert Merrillees 

Published in 2018

Monumentality and urbanisation in Late Bronze Age Cyprus: rethinking Schaeffer’s Bâtiment 18 at Enkomi

BOOK CHAPTER

Thomas Kiely

Published in 2018

Cyprus and Assyria

BOOK CHAPTER

Thomas Kiely

Published in 2018

Britain and the archaeology of Cyprus. II: 1914 to the present day

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Thomas Kiely

CCEC 47, 253–310

Published in 2017

Britain and the archaeology of Cyprus I. The long 19th century

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Thomas Kiely; Anja Ulbrich

CCEC 42, 305–356

Published in 2012

Excavations at Kition-Bamboula 1879. Finds in the British Museum

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Thomas Kiely; Sabine Fourrier

CCEC 42, 255–286

Published in 2012

The archaeological interests of Samuel Brown, government engineer, and his circle of acquaintances in late 19th-century Cyprus

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Thomas Kiely; Robert Merrillees

CCEC 42, 227–254

Published in 2012

Four unpublished inscriptions in Cypriot Syllabic script in the British Museum

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Thomas Kiely; Massimo Perna

Kadmos. Zeitschrift für Vor- und Frühgriechische Epigraphik 49, 93−116

Published in 2010

Charles Newton and the archaeology of Cyprus

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Thomas Kiely

CCEC 40, 131–150

Published in 2010

Prestige goods and social complexity at Episkopi-Bamboula

BOOK CHAPTER

Thomas Kiely

Published in 2010

Four unpublished marble sculptures of Hellenistic date from Cyprus in the British Museum

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Peter Higgs; Thomas Kiely

CCEC 39, 403–424

Published in 2009

Ancient Cyprus in the British Museum. Essays in Honour of Veronica Tatton-Brown

BOOK

Edited by Thomas Kiely

Published in 2009

The Kourion Notebook in the British Museum. Excavating an old excavation

BOOK CHAPTER

Edited by Thomas Kiely

Published in 2009